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Nursing in West Bengal

Kolkata is thousand miles away from the philosophy of Florence Nightingale. The basic philosophy of care sympathy and professionalism is seriously lacking. The nursing standard in Kolkata, compared to the rest of world, is much below acceptable level.

After qualifying from government hospitals, the nurses have two options: Either they take up job in government hospitals or work in private sector. Those who are better and lucky, get attachment in government hospitals. They prefer this job as there is a security of employment and pension benefits. Those unfortunate to secure government jobs, take employment in private hospitals and nursing homes. Of these, the lucky and better ones take attachment in big private hospitals. The nursing homes are the worst affected. The most incompetent qualified nurses cover significant amount of these middle and low-grade nursing homes, or sometimes ladies who have some ambiguous diploma from some obscure college. The reason for this is, most of the small-scale private nursing homes want ‘cheapest’ nurse in market. This means, the most incompetent one. The patients are left with nurses who even are incompetent in diagnosing a problem and informing the concerned doctor.

The other big problem is the modern equipment is lacking in government hospitals where these nurses are trained. They are not exposed to these equipment and even basic commodities like a suction drain, vacutainer, etc. They are not aware as how these function. So when after graduation, these nurses are employed in private sector, they do not know how to handle them or even recognize the problem.

Of these, some have no inclination of learning. In short, no aptitude test is done to see, whether these nurses are suited for the profession. Of these the ones, who have the aptitude, pick-up.

The sad part is, we consultants have to leave our very valuable patients under their care. And sometimes the corporate hospital owners don’t realise the importance of these. They are looking for nurse whom they can pay less salary.

Nursing schools should be opened in private sector, as some of the private hospitals have the most competent senior nursing personnel, supervisors, sister-in-charge, matron, nursing superintendent etc. These senior personnel are up to date with the modern gadgets; the professionalism desired in private sector and long years of experience. They are capable of training these staff to highest level of competence and professionalism.

I expect a nurse to recognise the problem, give the emergency treatment and then call a doctor. Even at the worst time of the day, they have to keep a smiling face. This is what happens in western world. Even after a free flap had problems and was not recognised and ignored by my junior, I was called at 3 AM to deal with the free flap by the ward nurse. Thank goodness she dis-regarded junior doctor’s verdict and called me. An eminent disaster was saved.